Wednesday 23 January 2013

Skinning the Dead for Fun and Profit

Regular readers will know that I consider Classic D&D's Treasure Types to be a horrible, irredeemable mess that should have died a final death around 1989. So it should come as no surprise to hear I've been tinkering with treasure generation yet again.

Semi-related to which, here's a half-formed thought occasioned by the monster Yield mechanic of Hackmaster 4E and by the Egg Hunter campaign concept from Noism's epic Let's Read the Monstrous Compendium.*

Skin/gut/nest-rob a treasureless beastie: a party can garner 10 x lvl^2 gp per turn of gutting, up to a maximum gp value = its XP.

The form this treasure value takes is dependent upon the creature type (hide/fur, feathers/scales, organs/secretions, eggs/young, etc.), but usually has to be hauled back to town and converted to hard cash at a market.

Bigger, more dangerous creatures are worth more to interested purchasers (fur traders, tanners, haberdashers, corset-makers, wizards and what-not), but take longer to render down into sweet convertible value.

Why a value per turn? Coz more experienced adventurers are more practised in skinning and jointing beasties purely as a function of their experience as scavenging murderhobos. Pay a time penalty: derive extra loot.

And that is how you get value out of whales, beavers, owlbears, and similar loot-less beasties. 


* On the subject of Let's Reads. Yes, LRM will be returning. I intend to finish it if it drives me mad.

Pic Source: wikimedia commons.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Truly Random Charges for Magic Items

Just a thought. Rather than generating the number of charges remaining when a wand (/rod/stave/misc. charged item) is discovered in play instead:

Pick (or roll) a number between 1 and 20.
Each time the wand is used, roll a d20.
If the number matches the pre-selected one, the wand is out of charges.

  • If the wand was a looted object and/or previously used against the party by someone else, pick 2 numbers.  {reflecting depletion through use, duh.}
  • If the wand was crafted by the wizard him/herself: pick 1 number, roll d30 when used.  {This incentivises crafting by PC wizards, and reflects a maker's mastery of his own creation. "I know every nut and bolt and cog; I built it with my own hands!"}

Why bother with this rules wrinkle rather than "xd10 charges"?

Because - contrary to what contemporary D&D orthodoxy would have you think* - magic is chaotic, unpredictable and will probably let you down at exactly the worst possible moment. This variant models the uncertainty of a world without fuel gauges on magic items.

In addition, it's engaging in play: every time a wand is used there's a chance (rolled by the user, no less!) that it blows a fuse and reverts from throbbing arcane phallic extension to useless decorative back-scratcher.

* Post-scarcity D&D? *pshaw* There's no way a plan that goes "bind the power of Kaos to bootstrap an industrial revolution" ever ends well.

Hat-tip: Zak S for Lucky Number Kung-Fu.

Bonus Factoid: According to the magic items chapter of the One True DMG (AD&D1E) there's a 1% that any wand discovered is rigged to 'backfire' when used. Whether this is due to malignancy on the part of the creators, or the innate perversity of magic, or just down to thaumic decay over time, is undisclosed. And quite what 'backfire' entails is left for the GM to determine. (cue evil laughter)


Unrelated: Oh look. A DNDClassics pdf purchase site. Looks like WOTC decided to do the blindingly obvious after four years of fighting the tide. What was that line about even a stopped clock being right twice a day?

Sunday 20 January 2013

Mastering Forbidden Lore

As far as I recall the process of wizards forcing new forms of blasphemous eldritch lore into their bulbous craniums is almost completely handwaved in B/X-ish D&D. Fine by me; that just leaves all the more room for personal tinkering.

A wizard, yesterday

Here's my personal take on larnificatin' new spells, a sub-system more than a little influenced by the casting rules from good old "Chainmail".

Spell Mastery
Binding the power of Chaos to your will in new and interesting ways is a non-trivial endeavour. When a wizard discovers a new spell (on a scroll, in a spell book, graven into an arcane crystal, w/e) he must attempt to master it through successive castings.

Every time the wizard casts a spell he has memorized but not yet mastered, roll the following:

2d6 +Level +Int mod –Spell Lvl vs. TN 12
  • Pass = Spell Mastered - spell takes effect. Wizard cackles like an agitated hen coop.
  • Fail, roll 7+ = Partial Mastery - spell takes effect, caster enjoys cumulative +1 bonus to future mastery rolls for this spell. Wizard gloats.
  • Fail, roll 3-6 = Not Mastered - spell fizzles. Wizard snarls and kicks handy apprentice/familiar/peon.
  • Snake Eyes = "Oops!" - spell backfires horribly. Roll on your preferred spell misfire table.
Mastery rolls have an automatic +1 bonus if the wizard has already mastered a spell with a thematically related effect (suggestion, charm person/monster, dominate, etc.)

Degrees of mastery achieved over known spells should be noted in the player's grimoire:

[ ] = Not Mastered, [/] = Partial Mastery, [X] = Spell Mastered. 

Accumulated Partial Mastery bonuses can be represented with multiple slashes, thus: [///] = +3 bonus to mastery rolls for that spell.

Once a spell has been cranium-wrestled into submission a wizard can memorise and cast it per the normal rules.

Additional Wrinkles to the Rule

First level wizards start with mastery of their known spells (IMG: 1d6+Int mod of the spells from the starting list). This rules given above apply only to attempts to extend their mastery of magic beyond these rote-learned Old Reliables.

Rolls to master spells may be made between adventures. Each roll cost 100gp/spell level (to cover material components, consultation fees, thaumotropic drugs, and third party damages) and take 1 week.

When a new level is gained the player may attempt to master a number of spells of their choosing equal to their character's Int mod. After these rolls the player may also pick any one unmastered spell on their list, this is now wholly understood.

Until 9th level is attained only spells that the character can cast may be rolled for.  Wizards of levels 9+ can roll to understand and cast higher level spells. For example, an Int 16 W10 would have a chance of casting wish (10,+2,-9 = TN 10 on 2d6).

Spell Mastery rolls can also be used instead of the existing Rogue scroll use rules, or as a shortcut for mastering looted magic items through empirical experimentation.

I should probably include some form of rules for thaumotropic drugs that enhance mastery attempts. You know, stuff like Elric's Hellebore, a Skaven Grey Seer's warpdust, etc.

Oh, and this is the 200th post here at VoN. Go my lazy, wandering-off-for-months-on-end self!

Edit 22/01/2013:  Modified difficulty of casting without mastery. Thanks to -C for the catch.

Pic Source: teh intawubz
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